Write On Wednesday-Dear Diary

The idea of keeping a journal has always appealed to me. I love the thought of having a special book to write my secret feelings in, or record my impressions of people and places, even keep track of my “social engagments.” As much as I love the thought of journal keeping, I’ve never been very good at actually doing it, at least not for any significant period of time. And when I have, often the pages have turned out to be nothing but whining and kvetching about how awful things were going at that particular time.

Last summer I started reading The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron’s popular book which outlines her method for unleashing the “inner artist.” One of the key elements in this process are the “morning pages,” three pages of free writing done every day. The key element here is “free” writing – there are no topics, no list of must-includes. You just pick up the pen, and write whatever comes to mind. I started doing morning pages last July, and I’ve filled six spiral notebooks with all kinds of things, from shopping lists to plans for my future. Sure, I’ve done some whining, but I’ve also come to some pretty interesting conclusions and had more than one “light bulb” moment in the process of writing out my feelings about a dilemma.

Cameron isn’t the first to advocate free writing as a means of tapping the well of creativity that lies in our subconscious. Back in 1934, in her classic book Becoming A Writer, Dorothea Brande wrote “if you are to have the full benefit of the richness of the unconscious you must learn to write easily and smoothly when the unconscious is in the ascendant.” Her prescription – “rise half an hour or an hour earlier than you usually rise, and, just as soon as you can, without talking, without reading the morning paper, without picking up the book you laid aside the night before – begin to write. Write anything that comes into your head.” In this manner, she says you learn to train your mind to release words easily and freely, words that can later be whipped into some sort of shape.

I also love reading the published diaries of well known authors, and one of my favorite is Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary. Back in 1919, she had this to say about her own diary writing:

“I note that this diary writing does not count as writing…I am much struck by the rapid haphazard gallop at which it swings along. Still if it were not written rather faster than the fastest type-writing, if I stopped and took thought, it would never be written at all; and the advantage of the method is that it sweeps up accidentally several stray matters which I should exclude if I hesitated, but which are the diamonds of the dustheap. But what is more to the point is my belief that the habit of writing thus for my own eye is good practice. It loosens the ligaments.”


I’ve become quite accustomed to “loosening the ligaments” of my mind each morning as I sit in my favorite chair, warmly snuggled in a cozy flannel blanket, with a steaming cup of coffee at the ready (sorry, Dorothea, I have to get up and make the coffee first!) I just replenished my supply of spiral notebooks – I’ve found that if I use just an inexpensive school style notebook, I don’t feel any constraint about writing something worthy of a lovely bound book full of nice thick paper. I do like a smooth writing, fine tipped pen – right now my favorite is the Vision Elite by UniBall – it’s gel ink glides effortlessly across the page but doesn’t soak through.

How about you? Do you have a journalling habit? What kind of journal do you keep?

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7 thoughts on “Write On Wednesday-Dear Diary

  1. I journal in odd spurts. It seems I journal the most when I have something to work through. Writing has always been a way for me to do that.

    I know what you mean about the intimidation factor of writing something “worthy” of the expensive journal. I’ve taken to buying cheaper A4 size journals and feel more comfortable toting them about, not caring if they get a bit dogeared or worn.

  2. So much wisdom in the writers’ words that you’ve quoted and even more impressive is that you actually take their advice, Becca..bravo for you!
    I write in journals most avidly when I travel…mostly because it helps me come to some sort of closure on what I have experienced and seen that day. (closure..jeez, such a teacher word…forgive me for the reminder!)
    I also tend to use my blog as a sort of journal of course…as do most other. Although I rarely go back and read my written journals, I do often refer to my blog to recall the date of a particular event, etc.
    Well… a lot more than you asked for…but thanks for the inspiration to write…lol!

  3. Becca, you inspire me to write. There are several unfinished notebooks scattered around my house and always the intention to write. I’ve tried journaling and stopped because the whining gets on my nerves – but I’m looking at it differently these days, seeing a potential to flex the writing muscle more regularly. I was gifted with a copy of The Artist’s Way for Christmas and am looking forward to beginning the process.

  4. I make my own journals. They have to be very thick because I use them up rather quickly. I prefer using heavy papers and many different colored inks in a writing. My entries are usually from 4 to 12 pages. I often do more than one entry a day.
    I also have a journal on my computer which I often write in while answering emails or working on one of my stories. Other thoughts just come to mind in the middle of something so it helps to have the extra journal on hand.

  5. I swear by my morning pages … clears my head of all the junk darting around. And if I can’t sleep at night, I do evening pages too. As Cameron says, I find doing my MPs, even when it’s an effort, helps me to focus. Good post!

  6. I have boxes and boxes of journals that I’ve been keeping for years! I try to write every day, but once in a while miss days at a time. Then things just start rolling again and the writing is more urgent than ever. I write later in the day. My mornings must start with hard physical activity, otherwise I don’t seem to wake up!!

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